HP Envy x360 review
Processor: Dual-core 1.7Ghz Intel Core i5-4210U, RAM: 8GB, Size: 383.7x258.5x23.6mm, Weight: 2.4kg, Screen size: 15.6in, Screen resolution: 1,344x768, Graphics adaptor: Intel HD Graphics 4400, Total storage: 1TB hard disk
Laptops with multiple form factors were made popular when Windows 8 arrived in 2012, as the touch-oriented Metro interface gave manufacturers the confidence to try something new with chassis designs and touchscreens. This ushered in a new age of hybrid and convertible laptops that combined tablet versatility with laptop practicality, with differing degrees of success.
HP's Envy x360 is a full 15.6-inch device that pushes this design philosophy to its limits. The Envy x360's hinges allow the touchscreen to be rotated almost 360 degrees around to the rear of the device, turning it into a thick, heavy tablet. However, at 2.4kg, using it as you would a tablet isn’t as comfortable as using a regular, lighter tablet such as the 800g Surface Pro 3.
Thanks to the Envy x360’s flexible hinge, you can also put the device into a space-saving tent-style mode, where the device’s keyboard is bent back on itself so that’s standing in a sort of triangle. This configuration is most sensible in situations where space is limited, such as the tray tables of aeroplanes and trains. It's also handy at home when you want to watch iPlayer, or follow a recipe, in the kitchen.
The hinges are sturdy and there's only a little wobble from the screen. Sadly, this good build quality doesn't extend to the backlit keyboard. The typing experience isn't particularly tactile or responsive. There's not enough travel from the keys and the laptop sometimes failed to respond to our input if we didn't hit a key dead centre and instead pressed a corner, as is common when touch-typing quickly. This won't affect all typing styles, though, and slow typists will probably be fine.
The Envy x360's touchpad is a notable departure from convention thanks to the inclusion of HP's Control Zone design. In an attempt to make Windows 8.1's Modern user interface less bewildering to first-time users, the pad has been divided into three distinct sections. The central zone is a conventional touchpad, but two margins that sit either side exist purely for using Windows 8’s Modern user interface. The left section handles app switching, while the right side is for the Charms menu, and you can use these margins to mimic the gestures you'd perform on a touchscreen.
However, this touchpad’s innovations will be infuriatingly useless to those who prefer to use the regular desktop. Only clicks made in the central Control Zone actually work in desktop applications. If you accidently click even slightly outside of this central area, you'll get no response whatsoever.
Despite being fairly chunky and heavy, the Envy x360's specifications are a mix between those seen on a mid-range Ultrabook and a general purpose laptop. The dual-core 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-4210U is a fine low-power processor, and it provided good results in our benchmarking tests. The processor scored 47 overall, although its strongest suit was image processing in which it scored 68. The laptop remained cool and quiet throughout testing, which is testament to the design of the chassis. The Envy x360 will be good enough for less strenuous tasks, but challenging applications such as video editing will be slower, and video processing times will be lengthy. The model we tested has a 1TB mechanical hard disk, which was a little too noisy for our liking.
As the Envy x360 relies on the processor’s integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU for graphics, it isn’t best suited to gaming, and it was only just able to cope with Dirt Showdown, achieving 17.8fps with High graphics quality and a resolution of 1,280x720.
Battery life is distinctly average at 4 hours and 31 minutes in our benchmark test, but it'll last long enough for brief sessions on the move.
Around the edge of the x360 is a conventional array of ports, with two USB3 ports, one USB port, a combined headphone and microphone port, an SD card reader, a gigabit Ethernet port and a full-size HDMI output for connecting an external monitor.
As is often the case with mid-range laptops, the screen is disappointing. Not only is it just a 1,366x768 pixel panel, which provides much less space than a Full-HD panel, but its viewing angles are narrow and overall image quality is only just okay. Our calibrator reported that the screen was showing 66.2 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut, leaving more vibrant colours looking washed out. Contrast was very disappointing at 254:1, as were the very high 0.78cd/m2 black levels, which left shades of black looking grey.
The quality of the speakers is also disappointing. Don't be fooled by the Beats Audio branding; the speakers produce a muddy sound. We'd recommend using headphones when watching video or listening to music on the Envy x360.
Despite its shortcomings, the x360 presents reasonable value. While performance isn't quite at the level of other £600-£700 laptops, the chassis is well made and the Envy x360’s hinges are genuinely impressive. It's not a complete package, though. Key areas such as the keyboard, touchpad and screen aren't brilliant.
If you want a large but versatile laptop, the HP Envy x360 is worth a look, but you must be prepared to accept the compromises detailed above. You should also consider whether a flexible laptop this large is useful. If you use your laptop in bed or on the train, for example, this could be the device for you, but if you're mostly deskbound, get a different laptop.
A more conventional laptop in this price range worth considering is the cheaper Dell Inspiron 15 5000. While it doesn't have the greatest screen, the Inspiron 15 5000 has a good Core i7 processor and an AMD graphics processor.
|Processor||Dual-core 1.7Ghz Intel Core i5-4210U|
|Memory slots (free)||1 (0)|
|Max memory||Not disclosed|
|Sound||Beats Audio (3.5mm headset port)|
|Graphics adaptor||Intel HD Graphics 4400|
|Total storage||1TB hard disk|
|Optical drive type||None|
|Ports and expansion|
|USB ports||2xUSB3, 1xUSB2|
|Networking||802.11n Wi-Fi, gigabit Ethernet|
|Memory card reader||SD, SDHC, MMC|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1|
|Operating system restore option||Restore partition|
|Parts and labour warranty||One-years collect and return|
|Price inc VAT||£649|